Biology Department looks to expand the environmental science program

The Biology Department is in the final stages of hiring a new professor to expand their environmental science division.

The position will replace one previously held by Steve Emerman, who left after the 2006-07 school year.

Jeff Parmelee, associate professor of biology and head of the search committee, said an offer for the position should be extended sometime within the next two weeks.

“We started out with 30 applicants,” Parmelee said. “We narrowed that down to three candidates who visited campus.”

The search committee is looking for someone who can bring a new area of expertise to Simpson.

“We had to re-think the whole position,” Parmelee said. “We thought ‘well, what do we want? We don’t have to hire exactly the person that left.'”

Currently the environmental science program focuses on vertebrate animals, including reptiles and mammals. Parmelee said they’d like to find someone with a focus on invertebrates, such as insects and plants.

“Those are the two groups that we have nobody who studies them,” Parmelee said. “This is going to strengthen our environmental science program.”

Sophomore biology major Cortney Bax is excited to have more course options in the coming years.

“I think it’s great that they’re bringing in a professor with a different background,” Bax said. “It gives students the opportunity to study more areas of biology.”

Jim Zoher, a visiting instructor of biology, is filling the position temporarily. Zoher has taught semester-long and Fast Track courses at Simpson in the past.

“I really enjoy the faculty and the students here,” Zoher said. “I like the somewhat-smaller atmosphere. It’s much more personal contact with the students.”

Zoher also spent 35 years working for the Department of Natural Resources in the Wildlife Bureau. His class, wildlife ecology, focuses on managing land for wildlife.

“I’m trying to take students that may not understand the inner relationships in nature and explaining how everything is tied together,” he said. “I have field trips lined up to observe wildlife in their natural setting and explain about habitat changes and wildlife requirements.”

Sophomore Andrew Doyle is currently taking Zoher’s class. He said he likes that he’s able to study things he can associate with on a daily basis.

“I love the class because it’s stuff you can see on your walk across campus,” Doyle said. “Everything we’re learning is about the state of Iowa. It’s awesome being able to apply what we’ve learned in class to nature.”

Zohrer said he’s noticed a shortage of available environmental science and ecology professors.

“There is a shortage in not only the general area of science, but specifically in the natural environment area, which is, I think, a growing field of need in the future,” he said. “There is a need for instructors with the education and real world experience because there’s so much more than just the science involved in these natural resource and environmental areas.”

Parmelee has high goals for the department in the future.

“We expect the department to keep growing, and this new professor will help with that goal,” Parmelee said.